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Back in May 2000, Kingfisher through its Comet stores bought us a too good to be true deal. For £20 per annum you received unlimited off-peak Internet access. An extra £35 bought you unlimited 24x7 access. This was in the halcyon days when these ISP’s thought they would make their money on loads of advertising revenue. They didn’t consider that this revenue might not be forthcoming plus there might be some (misguided/sad) users who wanted to spend upwards of 24 hours a day on the net. Well Libertysurf lost money and were snapped up in January 2001 by Tiscali. Tiscali honoured our 12 (well 13 because we got a free month) month contracts and in early July announced that Libertysurf was no more. Wanting to continue to surf the net and of course read/write Dooyoo opinions, I looked at the alternatives and eventually settled on Tiscali. For £14.95 per month, I get unlimited 24x7 Internet access with no cut-off (twas 2 hours with Libertysurf), 25mb of web space and no adverts. So who are Tiscali? They are not exactly a household name like Freeserve or AOL. A quick look at the web site gives a few clues. They are a European ISP and claim to be the biggest in Europe with 16 million users. Apart from the purchase of Libertysurf, their other major coup was the acquisition of WorldOnline (a Dutch ISP) back in October 2000. They were voted number 1 UK ISP by the Internet magazine back in February 2001. Setting up an account with them was pretty straightforward. I filled in my details online (including credit card numbers!) and was accepted in about 20 minutes. My account was activated in about 24 hours and I was provided with a 1690….. freefone number. The only 2 activities I had to undertake was the removal of my Libertysurf access and the setting up of the dial-up connection into Tiscali. I was provided with a full set of step-by-step screen pictures. I followed them to the letter and ‘hey presto’ I was online.
No messing around with disks. Connection time is much faster than Libertysurf and there is none of this dreadful 2-hour cut-off, which you get with the ‘low cost’ ISP’s. The Tiscali portal is functional – but nothing special. The one dilemma I have is how you pronounce Tiscali. It thought it was TIS_CAR_LEE assuming the ISP was of say Italian origin. Then when watching British Eurosport, I saw an advert which referred to them as TIS_CAL_EE. So I’m confused. They sponsor a team in the Tour de France and you will find their name on the side of the BAR cars in Formula 1. I’ve been pleased with my new ISP and will update this opinion with any further experiences. Their web site is: www.tiscali.co.uk
If you’ve got wooden window frames, you’ll sympathise with me when you notice peeling paint. Its that time when you will spend hours with sandpaper, putty and paint making those windows look as good as new. You will need to climb up ladders and apply many layers to get that professional finish to make your neighbours jealous. Let’s be honest. It’s a pain in the bum. Sunlight, rain and the wind will attack your windows. What you want to do is to repaint them yourself in the knowledge that the finish will last sufficiently long enough that you won’t have to go through the bother for another 3/4/5 years. This is where Ronseal’s 5 year Woodstain comes in. The brochure says its been independently certified to last a full 5 years by something called the ‘British Board of Agrement’. Yep that last word is french sounding and suspicious. But a guarantee is worth pursuing. Convinced by this stuff, I went out and bought a can or 2. The woodstain comes in 8 colours ranging from mahogany through to rosewood, and including teak, dark oak, and redwood. The finished product dries to a pleasant satin finish. I went for a dark stain – Rosewood. Tins vary in price from about £5 for a smallish one up to £9 for a bigger one. Before painting, the affected areas need to be sanded down and cracks filled with wood polyfilla. At this point I found the first problem. The woodstain is literally a stain and not a paint. Light coloured bare wood or polyfilla will show through the woodstain unless you go for slapping on numerous layers. Although the tin mentions you don’t have to use a primer, the downside is that you have to use many coats instead. The stain is quite runny and you need to make sure that you don’t slap it on unless you want it dripping onto your patio/lawn or whatever. It also has a tendency to become sticky when drying. If you can do, leave any windows
being painted open as long as possible. If you don’t you will find that a tap with a mallet is required on the frames to open them the next morning! On the positive side, the satin finish is very pleasing on the eye. To get a good overall finish, 3-5 coats are needed. I would go for the latter where doorsteps are involved. Like many modern paints, the woodstain-coated brushes can be washed out under the tap. This is more than can be said for getting it off hands. It’s a pig to remove. So much so that I took to wearing latex gloves to protect my ‘fairy like hands’! I can’t tell whether it’s going to stand up to its guarantee – only time will tell. But on balance, I’ve been impressed so far. Further details can be found at the Ronseal website which is: www.ronseal.co.uk
As I stood on my chair in our living room, drilling holes into the wall to hang the curtain rail – it crossed my mind how many times I had been through the same process in the 15 or so years since I bought my first house. Why not write something about – I thought as its something most of us will have to go through in our DIY lives – and share a few experiences. So here are a few jottings about poles and rails; followed by some pointers about putting them up. Curtain poles ------------------ I must admit I do like curtain poles. There is something classy to hanging your curtains on a nice bit of timber with those ornamental thingies on each end to stop the curtain hoops dropping off. For about £20, you get the curtain pole, approximately 3 wall brackets and a set of curtain rings. You should also be supplied with a set of screws – and raw plugs if lucky. After measuring up for the brackets, these are screwed into the wall, the curtain loops added and the pole pushed through all wall brackets. Screws are often provided to fasten the pole to each bracket. To cap it off, the ornamental thingies are added to each end. Unlike curtain rails, curtain poles do not have so many wall brackets. Usually there is one at either end and possibly one in the middle. I would highly recommend the middle bracket to preventing bowing. The only downside to curtain poles are they may not be that good for supporting heavy curtains. They also don’t come with the whizzier gadgets such drawstrings etc. Curtain rails ---------------- Although not as pretty as curtain pole, curtain rails are more versatile. They vary in simplicity from a basic rail, which is attached to a set of wall brackets, to the ‘deluxe’ version with a drawstring, which allows a set to be opened with the pull of the string. I’ve used both types and would recommend the simplistic v
ersion for bedroom curtains. A basic pack will cost you about £10 from any decent DIY store. Those with drawstrings will set you back about £25 or so. My preference is Swish though there must be plenty of good alternatives. Curtain rails are more versatile than poles in that they can be cut down to size with a hack saw. However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this with those curtain rail containing drawstrings – despite what it says on the packet. Another tip I would pass on is not to attempt to switch the drawstring from one side to the other unless you have to. We did this with one Swish rail and struggled to put it back together. Another tip is to make sure you buy a rail where the rail clicks to the brackets and doesn’t use those white ‘keys’ which have to be turned 90 degrees to the right. Finally, buy a curtain rail where extra curtain loops can be added without the need for taking the rail down each time. Putting up curtain poles/rails -------------------------------------- Preparation is everything. If you rush into putting up your rail/pole, you may find that it doesn’t look straight, bows in the middle or (at worst) falls off the wall under the weight of the curtain. Read the instructions, which come with the pole/rail. Especially those which give distances between end of curtain rails and the first set of wall brackets. If you get the distance wrong, you may find that your rail may not click onto the bracket! If the wall where the curtain is going to hang contains a wooden plank – use it. We had these in our bedrooms in our previous house and this prompted us to buy and get into Swish curtain rails. You will probably find that the plank is only wide enough for a rail and not a pole. Beware of the RSJ (roof support joint). These can be found above windows. They are embedded within the wool and made of steel. They are also pretty impervious to all bu
t the best drill bits. Use your knuckle to tap up the wall until the tone deepens. This is where the RSJ is. If you drill into the area where the RSJ is and your bit cannot get into it, your raw plugs may not fit and you may get very frustrated. I try and give the RSJ a wide berth following the experiences in our last house. Mark out the line of the rail and check carefully with a spirit level. Measure out the centre of the rail/pole and each bracket and mark with a cross. If fitting a curtain rail with heavy curtain, fix more brackets to the wall to even out the weight. Get the depth of holes for raw plugs just right. If too deep, the raw plug will disappear into the hole and you may never see it again. If too short, it will poke out the end. In this case, you may be forced to cut the raw plug down to size. When screwing curtain rail brackets into the wall, check out the alignment with a spirit level before tightening the screw too much. Attach the curtain hooks to the pole/rail before affixing to the wall. Attach pole/rail to wall and check for firmness. Review the fixings after the curtains have been up for a number of weeks. Check for loose brackets or sagging poles/rails. And there you have it……
I can hear the groans from here! Oh no it’s that Libertybell with yet another opinion on trains from California. Well I’m sorry…..not really. If you’re on holiday with wee ones, there is no better way to indulge your interest in things steamy – than to travel on a steam train through a forest of redwoods. We came across this railway (or railroad as the Yanks call them) in the Californian edition of the Dorian Kingsley Travel Guide (£16.99 – absolute must for holidays – buy or borrow one). We planned a trip up the coast from LA to San Francisco and were going to stop at Monterey. A quick perusal in the Motel breakfast area at Monterey and I noticed the leaflet and it seemed an ideal way of spending some time on the last leg of our journey. Its not difficult to find and the scenery is pretty impressive – hilly with lots of redwood trees. From Santa Cruz (between Monterey and San Francisco in central California), you head north and take the SR17 road. Follow the signs and exit onto Mount Hermon Road. The centre has a huge wooden sign near the road. And guess what….parking is $5 per car. I so love how American capitalism rips off the poor British traveller. It’s bad enough having a poor £/$ dollar exchange which makes the cost of holidaying more expensive – these extra charges just take the p…….. Anyway, having arrived, it was very sunny and warm. We slapped on the suntan lotion and headed trainwards. What the Roaring Camp owners have done is to recreate an 1880’s logging camp with a general store, ticket office, schoolroom and hall. There is also one of those covered bridges (as found in the Madison County film) albeit a small one which takes you from the car park into the centre. Plus they have all the 21st century luxuries like proper non-chemical toilets and hamburger stall. In their favour, it’s all quite low key – very remini
scent of British steam railways rather than large American corporations. The camp has 2 railway lines. The first is a narrow gauge taking you up a hill into a forest. I’ll describe this later. The other one is a standard gauge affair taking you to Santa Cruz beach. You can do both on separate tickets. Except we couldn’t. The beach train wasn’t scheduled to start operating until May 13. Something else I can’t understand. It was the Easter holidays, hot and sunny yet it was too early in the season to run a service. Sorry. We arrived just in time to miss the 11am narrow gauge service. It was packed with school kids who had arrived on one of those big yellow school buses. However there were another 2 services – one at 12.15 and another at 2pm. This is the off-peak season service – at full pelt they run 5 trains a day. Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $10 for children over 3 but under 12. These are roundtrip prices. We bought them from a pleasant middle-aged lady in a well-stocked gift shop, in Victorian dress. We then sat in the shade of the ticket office, ate some lunch and watched Josh playing Cowboys in his newly purchased hat with some other kids. At about 12.15, we piled onto the train. There were 3 uncovered coaches together with a covered one at the rear. Each train had 2 Guards who took a tremendous amount of trouble to point out all the sights. I must say something about the locomotive. This was an oil-burning machine built in the early part of the 20th century designed to climb steep gradients of 1 in 8. For the uninitiated, trains aren’t very good at climbing gradients – but this one carried on up the hill for about 20 minutes – working very hard at about 5mph. The Guard with the PA pointed out a number of trestle bridges, the history of the line, the biggest redwoods and the reason we had to navigate a switchback. Upon reaching the summit of Bear M
ountain, we disembarked into an area whilst the driver checked out the loco (they always do this because of the stresses these things go though on the way up). We stood in an area named ‘Cathedral Grove’ and the Guard told us of the dangers of ‘poison oak’ (apparently its very itchy!). The area was called Cathedral Grove because some British visitors many years ago though the collection of redwoods gave the impression of a cathedral. It was very peaceful at the top of Bear Mountain – you can even picnic up there and catch a later train back. The Driver tooted the whistle 4 times and we left. Wo betide anyone left up there after the last train of the day!! The journey back was less stressful for the engine and by the time we returned we had completed 6 miles in 75 minutes. Roaring Camp hold special events throughout the year. These include a Civil War re-enactment in May (can’t ever remember the Civil War being fought in California!), great train robberies in March and the summer gathering of the mountain men in August. It keeps the punters happy and brings in the dosh. And it makes a change from Thomas the tank engine days! For further information, visit the Roaring Camp web site at: www.roaringcamp.com I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Roaring Camp Railroads. Unless you take in both lines, there isn’t enough to do to spend a complete day there – but as a means of combining a trip on a steam train with a visit to see some Californian redwoods – its well worth considering.
When we were in California back in April 2001, the natives were complaining that it was cold. There they were with their coats on, and there we were already into typical holiday gear – t-shirts, shorts and sandals. You should come to England we said when they commented on our attire – it’s cold and rains a lot. Whoops! Someone up there must have been listening as the weather changed during the second half of the second week. White fluffy clouds appeared in the sky during a day trip to San Francisco and it became distinctly chilly – so much so that my Wife bought fleeces for herself and our boy at Pier 39. “We don’t need those,” she had said hours before – as we sat on the Pier feeling goosebumpish! Well it rained on and off on Thursday and by Friday – we were talking serious downpour. Now the Americans don’t call it rain – they call it “precipitation” as if it was a quick shower. Well it wasn’t – it was a downpour accompanied by distinctly colder weather. Back went the shorts and t-shirts into the case and out came the sweatshirts, jeans and sensible shoes. I was feeling quite at home! The problem with this sort of weather is it mucks up your travel plans. Most of the things to do/see in the State require you to be outdoors – beach, theme parks etc. When you get serious precipitation, your thoughts turn to shopping malls and museums. In an effort to keep positive and do something, we reached for our Dorien Kingsley guide to California (well recommended) and decided upon Sacramento for the day. There was a railway Museum there, which would keep us out of the “precipitation” until it stopped. Now I have a confession to make. This opinion is about the Railway Museum – but we did wander around old Sacramento as well. If you really hate railway museums, skip the next bit and head to the bottom. The Califor
nia State Railway Museum ============================ The Californian’s are very proud of their museum – they reckon it to be the best railway museum in the States. The blurb mentions that it is the most visited railroad museum in the US with about 600,000 people each year. Getting there is pretty easy. Sacramento (the State capital) is on the I-5 and is about 90 minutes from San Francisco. Upon entering the Sacramento area, take the exit marked with “Old Sacramento”. It really is quite simple. We found it despite the pouring rain. Old Sacramento is a reconstructed western town. You can park your car in the old streets – though it does ruin the effect somewhat. You have a choice of parking. Providing you are staying for no longer than 90 minutes and have a supply of 25-cent pieces – you can park next to a meter in the town. If not, try the covered main car park, where it’s about 50 to 75 cents per half hour. But at least you don’t get wet – and when it’s hot – you car isn’t baked! The Museum is a short dash from the covered car park. Admission charges are very reasonable. Adults are $3 and kids under 16 are free. It’s open between daily from 10am to 5pm except for public holidays. Your ticket allows access all day and includes entrance to the reconstructed San Francisco Central Pacific station of 1876 in the old town. Also part of the museum are the Historic Sierra Shops at Railtown 1897 in Jamestown (further down the road near a town called Sonora). Where do we start? There are loads of things of interest to see and write about. Here are a list of my favourite bits. For further information, visit the museum’s web-site, which can be found at: www.csrmf.org. Ground floor ----------------- The history of the Central Pacific Railway – The museum describes the history of the railway, which joined the Union Paci
fic in Utah in 1869 – where the famous hammering in of the golden spike occurred. The Museum explains how the railway was built by hand by Chinese labourers (10,000 of them), how many were killed and how difficult was to get over the mountains in Nevada. Although they were photographed at the great join up in 1869, they were ‘air brushed’ out of the official painting until many years later when their full contribution was appreciated. Locomotives – The Museum has a superb collection including those that look they have come out of Casey Jones through to a steam train called 4294, which was retired in 1956 and developed a whopping 6000 bhp. It’s a mega ‘beasty’ (larger than British locos) and represents the ultimate steam train. The museum also has a number of diesels though they don’t have the appeal of steam. Carriages – As interesting are the carriages, which shows the development of passenger comfort over the years. There is a streamliner dining car from the 1930’s when the railways were trying to re-invent themselves as being modern which such facilities as air conditioning, diesels and of course streamlined carriages. The example owned by the museum is very luxurious with bone china crockery, linen tablecloths etc. Of equal interest is a Canadian sleeping car, which gently ‘rocks’ to give an impression of movement. The Museum employs many ex-railwaymen who will happily tell you about their days on the trains. First Floor -------------- The Museum caters for the young as well as the older visitor on the first floor. Here can be found a collection of model railways and wooden railways for the weenies. Yep folks, they have discovered Thomas in the States. From this floor, you can get a great view of the ground floor and the vast range of exhibits. San Francisco Central Pacific station ------------------------------------------------- The precipitation did eventually stop and at this point we ventured back out into Old Sacramento to the reconstructed railway station. The Museum has done a great job to get the feel of the station right. There is a large waiting room containing a heater, a ticket office and office at one end and a ladies waiting room at the other. We wandered around the shed at the back containing a number of locomotives and carriages being worked on and chatted to friendly volunteers. Had we visited at a weekend, we would have had the opportunity of taking a 6 mile 40 minute round-trip from the station (tickets extra). Next door is a privately owned Café where we tucked into hot dogs and burgers. At the point of leaving the Café, it started to rain again and so we ventured back into the Museum. My Wife and son are not usually interested in these sort of museums, but they were happy to wander around and climb aboard the exhibits. Old Sacramento ============ If wandering around a Museum is not your cup of tea – there is always the old town. Here you wander around reconstructed wooden buildings full of gift shops and other tat. Most walkways are wooden giving that sound you hear in westerns and are covered. The effect is ruined somewhat by the cars in the streets. There is a statue to the Pony Express, which was founded here. Behind the railway station there is meant to be one of those pleasure steamers – but the rain must have kept it in side on the day we visited. Conclusion ========= You might say that a railway museum is not everyone’s idea of a great day out – but there is little to do when it pours in California. The railway museum is certainly worth a visit if you are interested in things ‘railwayish’ and there are plenty of things to keep bored family members interested. It lives up to its reputation as the nation’s premier railroad museum. As with most museums, it comes with a we
ll-stocked gift shop selling all sorts of books and clothing to suit everyone’s taste. I came away with an excellent guidebook for $3.95. And at $3 per adult ticket – it’s a cheap way to pass the hours whilst the precipitation passes.
Leadenhall Market is one of those little curiosities you run into by accident when wandering around the City of London - or it's recommended to you by a friend. The building could be called a 'folly'. Yes it serves a purpose - it stops you from getting wet and sunburnt, but it's a bit over the top for a market. Yet the Victorians who built it were like this. They were keen to build grandiose structures and then guild the lily when applying the decoration (look at the Albert Memorial). They were after all rulers of the largest empire in the World and some people/organisations were making a great deal of money and wanted to flaunt it. It's pretty easy to find. The easiest way is to take a Central line tube to Bank Station and follow the signs to the market (exit 7 from the tube and then Cornhill, across the junction with Bishopsgate into Leadenhall Street and then take a right before the Lloyds building). Alternatively get off at Aldgate station (Circle/Metropolitan) and follow the brown signs down Leadenhall Street. It's in the area of the Lloyds building - itself an interesting building in its own right. History ======= There's been a market of one sort of another here since the 14th Century. The first one was located behind Nevill House in Leadenhall Street. In 1321, Poulterers came to trade and these were followed in 1397 by the Cheesemongers. The Corporation of London recognised its importance in 1411 when they granted the market a freehold. The market continued to thrive throughout the centuries and some rebuilding was required as a result of the Fire of London in 1666. The existing structure was designed by Horace Jones and built by the Corporation of London in 1881. It was refurbished by the Corporation in 1990. The Shops ========= Leadenall Market has more in common with Convent Garden than a traditional market such as Spitalfields or Billings
gate. Yet despite this, there are market stalls, which exist next to pubs and upmarket fashion shops. A few of the more interesting shops include: H.S. Linward and Sons - A fishmonger selling a variety of wet fish since 1883. On the day I visited you could purchase 2 large sea bass for £14 or a large Scotch salmon for £10.50. This prompts a question. How do you keep it cold in your London office during the afternoon and equally as important - how do you stop it smelling on the 1705 from Waterloo to Wimbledon? Perhaps I shouldn?t worry because it seemed to be doing a reasonable trade. R.S. Ashby - A butcher and cheesemonger located next door to the Fish shop. Other than the market stalls, you will find a selection of run of the mill shops including Oddbins, Body Shop, and the odd sandwich shop. There are also Jigsaw and Hobbs (ladies clothes shops). Also located in the market are 2 pubs - the New moon (currently owned by Whitbread) and the Lamb Tavern (owned by Young's). The Lamb Tavern dates from 1780 and serves a cracking pint of special at £2.30. It's very popular with the office folk from nearby locations such as the Lloyds building who spill out of the pub onto the pavement. The pub has 4 floors, a Wine Bar in the basement, the main bar on the ground floor, a non-smoking area and a restaurant at the top. Snacks come in the form of hot roast pork or beef served in French bread. Highly recommended though I have never partaken! On the corner of the Lamb Tavern is a shoeshine stall. Here for £2.50 they will polish your shoes to a level where you would be acceptable in the Army. It?s a nice indulgence once in a while. The décor ========= Leadenhall Market is very much in your face. Upon reaching it from Leadenhall Street, you are struck by the size of the structure and the elaborate use of materials - for what is basically a market. The main colour used is red or crimson, contrasted w
ith cream. I assume these are the Corporation's colours. There are many pillars, topped with the Corporation of London dragon in silver along the city's shield. Looking further up can be seen moulding of flowers, fruit and vegetables are carefully coloured in contrast to the heavy use of crimson. To top it, there is a lavish use of gold leaf. It is best to stand in the corner of the market and just look around. I can't really do it justice in words. My own personal web site has a Leadenhall Market page with a selection of pictures. Horace the gander ================= One of the history plaques recalls the life of one of Leadenhall Markets famous residents - Horace the gander. The story goes onto say that Horace was a popular goose not only with the market but also fellow female geese. He was looked after and fed by the market traders until his death in 1835 at the ripe old age of 38. He's buried behind the market. Geese can be pretty nasty when upset and I bet you never upset Horace without taking the consequences! Other stuff =========== Like most of the City of London, the market is busy during the week and practically dead at the weekends. It is pedestrianised with delivery vehicles excluded during the main hours. Conclusion ========== If you are in London and the area, it really is a 'must see' location. It is quite vulgar and over the top - but it's fascinating just to look at from outside as well as from within. The decoration and mouldings are of a high quality and need to examined. The Market itself is fascinating because of the way the modern traders co-exist with the old. Its not a Convent Garden or a Hays Galleria - a true tourist resort nor is it a proper market. Its probably best described as facility for local office workers who visit at lunchtimes. I think it's brilliant despite its faults and I recommend a visit for a
pint of Young's and a roast beef sandwich!
If I asked the question – name me a theme park in California, chances are that the responses would include Disneyland (there are now 2), Universal Studios or Knottsberry farm. It’s unlikely to be the Six Flags Magic Mountain Theme Park – no one to date has requested it as a Dooyoo item. Does this say something? This is a shame – because folks – we are talking serious roller coasters of all shapes and sizes in the same park. Believe me – if you are in LA, and want to indulge a passion for looping the loop, pulling G’s and generally scaring yourself silly – this is the place for you. But as we will see – 6Flags (as I will now call it) caters for everyone’s taste – both young and old, sensible and lunatics amongst you. So, please pull the bar towards you, keep your arms and legs in the car and settle back for the 6flags experience. Location ====== 6Flags can be found on the I-5 Freeway north of Los Angeles on the way to Sacramento. If travelling from central LA or Anaheim where most theme parks are based, you keep heading north, up the hills, past the entrance to Universal Studios. Keep an eye out on the left hand side for the 6 flags sign (a clump of red) flags and take the next exit. Upon getting to the bottom of the exit road, take a left and keep going straight on up a smallish hill. The 6Flags theme park is on the right. When I say there is 1 park, I am not being really honest. There are 2 – the other one being called 6 Flags Hurricane Harbour. This is a Water park, which wasn’t open until Mid May. I won’t refer to it again other than to say it’s the same cost to go in either park i.e. if you do 2 it will cost you twice as much as just one. In terms of travelling time, it depends on where you are travelling from and the time of day. If coming from north LA, it will take between 30 and 45 minutes to ge
t there. If you travel from central LA, make it at least 90 minutes. The traffic in rush hour on the I-5 makes the M25 look like a ‘walk in the park’. Charges and opening hours ===================== The costs start here. Unless you are being dropped off, it will cost you $7 to park your car. The car park is huge. Remember that you may be able to remember where your car was when you left it – but by 7pm, it will be much busier. We lost our car and wandered up and down to find it. Normal admission is $43 per adult and $21.50 for children (or technically those under 48 inches). Under 2’s are free. However, try and find money off vouchers to reduce the cost. Someone in the queue gave us some VIP vouchers, which reduced the cost per adult to $25. One voucher – saving of $36 or about £25. Makes you think eh? When we were there in April it was open from 10 am through to 10pm. I would recommend you get there early. It was busy by 9.30am with crowds forming at the entrance to the park. One final tip, if going out of season. Take a coat or a jumper/sweatshirt. After about 6pm, it can get a bit nippy. You are up in the mountains after all. Restrictions ========= Like most theme parks, there are restrictions on some of the bigger rides. The free map of the park points out restrictions. As a rule you must be 48” or taller to ride the big stuff. However there are lots of rides for sub-48” people. The only down side to this is the need to share your ‘weeny’ offspring e.g. Dad goes on coaster, Mum goes on kids ride. Things to see/ride on/do ================== I was doing alright until here. This is the tricky part & I am starting to panic. 6Flags has so much stuff that I would be here until Christmas describing it all in detail. So I am going to talk about the bits that appealed to us. Yes I went on a few coasters – but I
didn’t do the big ones (don’t like heights). The best thing to do is to have a ‘butchers’ at the web site for specifications, speeds, g-forces and the like. The address is at the end of this opinion. So what did grab my attention? The theme park is divided into zones based in part on film or adventure themes. There is ‘The Movie District’, ‘Cyclone Bay’, ‘Samurai Summit’ and ‘6 Flags Plaza’. Superman the escape – a ride where you are fired along in what appears to be a rocket powered car and suddenly it rises vertically for about 100 feet…..and stops before dropping like a stone. Every time I went near the ride, it sounded like a jet was strafing you. Grinder Gearworks – On this ride you are spun around and the cage you are in is tilted to a 45-degree angle – sticking you to the side. My son loved this – though my breakfast didn’t! Flashback – the world’s only hairpin drop roller coaster. Did this – got the t-shirt though apart from looping the loop – I was chucked about so much that I felt a little bruised at the end. Recommended! Gold Rusher – the park’s first roller coast. Like riding on the runaway train ride at Disney. Looks tame – but quite a bit of fun. Circus Wheel – one of those rides where the vehicle twists around and you are flung to the far corners of the ride. It’s alright initially, but I felt decidedly ill after 30 secs and was flung from one side of the car to the other. Not pleasant. Bugs Bunny World – just for the kids. This is where my son spent most of his time. There was a Looney Tunes play area where you could fire foam balls at each other using air-pressure powered guns. It brings out the worst in both adults and kids alike. There was a Bugs Bunny show plus another one about teaching animals special tri
cks. Even the kids get mini-roller coasters where they can practice sticking their arms up in the air and shrieking. We went on an innocent looking ride called Canyon Blaster – it was fast, tight and cramped. I couldn’t wait to get off! In all there are 16 rides of all types from the little bland train going around a track to the more serious roller coasters. Perfect for all. I’ve got to finish by mentioning a few more coasters…… Psyclone – A huge wooden white replica of a roller coaster. It’s the first thing you see from the car park. Déjà vu – The blurb calls it a ‘next generation super boomerang roller coaster with brand new twist – riders fly forward and backward over twisting looping inverted steel track’ Watch that lunch! Finally……. X – the world’s 4th dimensional thrill. On this ride you will ‘fly, flip, spin and rotate 360 degrees’ all over the shop. It’s meant to be a bit like flying. I will believe them – there is no way I am going on that! In all, there are 18 roller coasters and thrill rides. Plus unusually for a theme park – no simulators, 3D shows and the like. Other facilities =========== As you would expect, there are a whole range of eating places, gift shops and the like. If you want to come back the next day, you can pay a nominal fee on your first day of visit. Conclusion ======== 6Flags in my humble opinion is one of the best Theme Parks about for roller coasters. It has a whole range of activities from those are very adventurous to those who just want to take it easy and enjoy the day with their kids. The park is quite big and is quite hilly in parts. To get around it all requires a lot of walking – so bear this in mind when taking children. It might be easier to use the Bugs Bunny area as a base and to keep childre
n there. Don’t underestimate the weather. We visited 6Flags in April and it was warmish then. Slap the suntan lotion on in the car park and keep out of the sun. I’ve been told that in the summer, visitors in queues are sprayed with cold water! Queues. Some of the rides are very popular. By about 4pm, the queue for Goliath (85mph super coaster) was 90 minutes. Get there early or be prepared to stay there late to get on the rides of your choice. If you want to visit their web site, it can be found at www.sixflags.com. They own a number of parks in the US and you need to choice the LA park. Once there, you can view an animated film of their 2 newest rides – dejavu and X. It’s quite amusing – though you need a fastish modem stop the pictures from being blurred. It may not be the number 1 theme park in terms of choice, but it has loads to do and if you can get a good deal on admission price – go for it. PS Sorry about the title of this op – I just couldn’t better the working title!
Whilst on holiday in California we wanted to spend a day doing something to keep our 4 year old happy; and we stumbled across a leaflet describing the Legoland Park in southern California. The Theme Park is aimed squarely at children and parents with children. If you want big scary roller coasters than you ought to save your money for Universal or Magic Mountain With this in mind, here are our experiences: Location ======== The Legoland Theme park is located near Carlsbad in southern California (near San Diego) off the I-5. It takes about 60 minutes to drive down there from Anaheim in Los Angeles (where the bulk of the theme parks are located). The American’s don’t signpost their theme parks very well and we took a turning off the I-5 into central Carlsbad, which turned out to be the wrong move. Upon rejoining the I-5, Legoland was signposted at the next exit. Upon leaving the freeway, you head towards the first set of traffic lights, take a left, drive up a hill and the entrance is about half a mile away on the right. My advice would be to ignore the Carlsbad signs until the Legoland one is displayed. Legoland has been open for about 2 years and they are still extending it. (As an aside, Carlsbad was an interesting place. It’s a seaside resort, but with upmarket Swiss/Bavarian type houses. It looked like a place to stay whilst playing golf or taking in the airs). Charges and opening hours ========================= Like most American theme parks, you will be charged to park your car as well as getting into the theme park. We were charged $7, though there was a $12 ‘VIP’ charge for those not wanting to walk so far (or with money to burn). Standard Adult admission is $38 or $34 for children. A child is designated as someone below a certain height – usually 48 inches. We were able to reduce the cost of admission by $6 per head
after obtaining a leaflet in our Hotel. These are worth checking out. With your tickets, you obtain a Guide, which shows you what is available, where and height restrictions on rides. When we visited during the Easter Holiday period in 2001, the park was open from 10am to 6pm. I am not sure whether the hours are extended for the summer – but I would expect so. Restrictions ============ Again like most theme parks, children below a certain height are not allowed on specific rides. Rather than having to measure your child before going on marginal rides, Legoland simply measure your child at the entrance area and put a coloured wrist tag on them. Josh had a yellow one indicating he could go solo on all rides designated for those over 40”. Legoland is great in that children can go on all rides. Although my son had an armband, he was able to go on all rides accompanied by an adult. This meant we could try everything together. I’ll now describe a few of the attractions that caught our interest (positively or otherwise) Things to see ============= Miniland USA – the centrepiece of Legoland are a number of reproductions American landmarks built in Lego. These include the Statue of Liberty, White House etc. There are also some reproductions of famous American streets including New Orleans. Even though you may find them a little kitsch, you have to be impressed by the time and effort in recreating these monuments in Lego bricks. There is also a New England dockland recreation with moving trains and a tanker that sinks in the harbour! These models can be visited on foot (they are in the centre of Legoland) or on a boat (what is called a ‘Coast Cruise’). Castle Hill – Up at the top end of Legoland is an area with a mock castle and a courtyard theatre where you can be entertained by Court Jesters and a mechanical dragon. The kids seemed to love it. <
br><br> Things to ride on ================= The Dragon – A roller coaster suitable for kids and parents a little apprehensive about what to expect. You start off in the Castle (in a dragon car) where your conveyance takes you past singing knaves and knights before heading outside for the main event. Hold onto your hats – its good. My son loved it! Aquazone Wave Races – On this ride you whiz around on a form of power ski and are blasted with water from the pool beneath you. You get a little damp – but it’s harmless fun. Spellbreaker – On this suspended ride, you are raised into the air whereupon you whiz around and complete your ride coming to a grinding stop. The queues for this ride were lengthy and after about 20 minutes we gave up. Waiting 40 minutes for 30 seconds of ride seemed to be a waste of time to us. Sky Cruiser – This leisurely ride allows you to pedal around a track from ahigh. I thought this could be a bit strenuous for some larger Americans until I realised that you could pedal as much or as little as you wanted – i.e. it was motorised (only in America!). Before I finish here, I need to mention a roller coaster so new that doesn’t appear on the map. Four of you sit in a space age Lego car which then charges around this track. I very quickly ceased to underestimate children’s roller coasters – they can be as equally scary as the big ones! Things to play with =================== Imagination Zone – This is what Lego is all about. An area where children (and adults) can go mad building things. There are areas with Duplo for the weenies, areas to build and race cars, and PC’s to play Lego games. The area has a number of large models outside including lions and a dinosaur with smoke coming out of its nostrils! Other activities ================ The Hideaways – Located near Cast
le Hill, this is one of those huge adventure playgrounds incorporating rope climbs, cargo nets and slides. Leave your kids her and you will have problems finding them let alone get them out of there. It’s a good place to have lunch and rest the legs. Walking – The Theme park is nicely laid out (landscaped) and is very roomy. There are plenty of areas to sit and eat. You don’t feel so hemmed in like many other theme parks. Pit stops – Legoland has lots of clean toilets and water fountains. Conclusion ========== Unlike some theme parks we went to, Legoland did not charge extra for some rides. We enjoyed our time at there and would certainly recommend it for those with kids or big kids. I cannot compare Legoland with its Windsor or Danish cousins, as I have not been to either. For further details, please visit their web-site, which can be found at: www.legoland.com. It’s got a 3D virtual reality tour, which looks fun.
Having just returned from a ‘Fly/drive’ holiday to California, I thought what better way to get back into the Dooyoo writing thing than to write an opinion on this subject. For those unaware of Fly/drive, its basically a type of holiday where you pay for a flight, a car and then you drive around a region of the US stopping in a number of hotels/motels on the way. I’ve been on 3 these holidays to the States and thought I would share some of my thought on how to keep costs under control. I’ve broken this subject down into a number of headings, which are presented below in no apparent order. Even if you are not fly/driving, please have a read, as there are many things you may find interesting. If I have missed something or there is something I ought to add – please add a line in a commentary. And we will start with…….. Travelling The beauty of Fly drive holidays, is that a) you are not limited to staying in one or 2 locations, and b) you can do things like travelling under your own steam in your hire car. My tips for travelling include: * Map reading – The US is very different from the UK when navigating the roads. Other than the obvious such as driving on the right, their towns are laid out in a ‘criss-cross’ fashion. Many roads within towns and cities can go on for miles and you never know whether you are travelling in the right direction. A decent map is a must – one of those big multi-page maps of America supplemented by local maps from Tourist Information Centres. If going with other people, get someone who specialises in driving and another in map reading. My driving is far better than my map reading – which I leave to my Wife! * Safety – The US has many dubious neighbourhoods. Use the central locking in your car to keep all doors closed. You shouldn’t have any problems. Also keep any ‘tourist’ items (like m
aps) out of harms way. In 5 trips to the States, I have only felt uncomfortable once when passing through Newark (NJ). * Turning right on red lights – One of the sensible things you can do in the US (and not over here) is to turn right on red lights (unless signed not to). This will save you lots of time. Don’t hold up drivers behind you when you can move on – they will use their horn on you. And also, don’t forget to look out for pedestrians crossing the road. Sometimes crossings allow pedestrians to cross. Just be careful and watch out. * U turns – You’re chugging along a highway and suddenly you discover you’ve missed your turning or the shop is on the other side of the road. It’s time for a U-turn and this is a manoeuvre you will practice over and over again. Find either the next left turn on the road (or at the next junction/set of traffic lights), check what is coming the opposite way and swing the car around with a bit of gas. Try not to do a ‘Starsky and Hutch’ burnout (it’s no longer cool and you might end up in the pavement!) Be careful where you do U-turns – many turns forbid them because of traffic coming the other way. There are also more Police in the US and they will not take too kindly to you breaking their laws. * The price of petrol – Time was when the price of gas in the States was very cheap. It still is compared to UK prices – but the price is gradually rising. In California, gas was between $1.60 and $2.00 a gallon. They predict it will be $3 a gallon by next year. Fly drive drinks fuel. You can easily drive 300 miles a day. So – checkout pump prices and pay as little as possible. Go for the cheapest grade (there are usually 3 types) and ignore certain chains – ‘76’ are consistently more expensive than neighbouring stations. * Public Transport – If convenient, try saving car parking charges in cities and Theme Parks
by taking public transport. San Francisco, Washington DC and New York all have their own underground systems. * Distances – Don’t underestimate distances in the US. What looks a short hop on the map may turn out to be a 200mile slog on an empty, dull freeway. Try to get a balance between getting from one location to another and checking out the attractions by staying in one area for a number of nights before moving on. Hiring cars The most important thing (or the next important thing to where you sleep) is your car. Lots of things are written about cars. Here are my thoughts: * Enough boot space – Make sure the car you hire is big enough to transport suitcases, people and other clutter in comfort. Your car should be big enough to swallow your suitcases so they aren’t stowed on the back seat. If in doubt, always order a bigger car than you will need. * Gadgets to have – On the whole, the bigger the car – the more toys that come with it. As a minimum, make sure your car has air conditioning (you will fry without it in the US – most if not all rental cars have it), cruise control (stops you getting cramp in your right foot on endlessly long freeways) and central locking (for your safety in dodgy areas and to ensure you don’t leave any doors unlocked and hence lose your possessions). Drink holders in the front and back are useful for those cold drinks from McDonalds! * Dropping car off at different airports – Flying into one Airport and out from another is worth considering as it reduces the needs to travel in 1 big loop. However the Rental Company might try to sting you for a $100 drop-off charge. They did with us in California – we objected and it was waived! * Convertibles – Great for posers, but expensive. The sun in the US is strong and bright in the south even in the winter and a dose of sunburn/sunstroke might suggest a boring hardtop with aircon is far more sensi
ble and cheaper too! Eating * Breakfast – Start the day with a good breakfast. If it’s substantial, you may find you can skip lunch and eat in the evening. Pick a Hotel/Motel where they serve a complimentary continental breakfast and go for cereals and fruit where available. Chocolate doughnuts and waffles covered in syrup may be novel at first, but they do get dull after a while. If you can’t get breakfast where you are staying, try Denny’s where they do all day breakfasts. It will cost you! * What’s a sandwich? – Unlike in the UK where you can easily grab a sandwich for lunch, getting one in the US is all but impossible. Bakeries are scarce and many supermarkets tend not to produce lunchtime grub. We even found a Wal-Mart (owners of ASDA over here), which didn’t even stock fresh food. Other than eating junk food, you may find snacking on cookies is the only way of getting through the day if you are feeling hungry (or have kids). * Finding supermarkets – Leading on from the previous 2 tips, try and locate a local supermarket. If you see one near where you are staying, make a mental note of it and visit it. They are a good source of cheap basics such as soft drinks (buy in bulk), bread and fillings for sandwiches, sweets and beer. If your Motel/Hotel room has a fridge – great, if it doesn’t you may have to forego the perishables! * Junk food choices – Sooner or later you will succumb to junk food. We have sampled McDonalds, Burger King (both ok), Taco Bell (insubstantial), Pizza hut (scrummy – try for a takeaway), and KFC (good). * All you can eat buffets – Check these out as they are great value for money. You pay an amount upfront (this may be for say a steak) and then you can eat as much as you like – salad, chicken, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks. We went to one in Anaheim LA, where you could eat as much as you wanted for $8! * Look out for plac
es to eat – Other than watching out for Supermarkets, watch the TV, read newspapers and other blurb for examples of places to eat. We came across a great and cheapish restaurant called Sizzlers through watching TV. * Free refills – In the US, many fast food outlets allow you to keep filling up your soft drink containers whilst you are eating there. Do take advantage of this before setting off on the next stage of your journey i.e. fill em up, and put them in the drink holders in the car! As with all drinks, don’t go to mad. You might be happy to drink a lot – but your bladder might not be so considerate. Theme Parks If you are in the States and are in the neighbourhood of a theme park – check it out. They are far ahead of anything the UK can offer in terms of size, variety of rides – and the weather is much better. However, they are expensive so….. * Paying for car parking & using free transport – It’s amazing what the theme parks get away with charging for. When you are paying $40+ per adult to enter a theme park, you would think that car parking would be free. Nope! It will cost you cost you about $7 to park your car for the day. If you can take a bus to the park, or the Hotel/Motel runs a shuttle or you know someone you will drop you there – take it. $7 may not sound too much – but it’s going to cost you $100 to get a family through the gates and we haven’t even mentioned food or souvenirs yet! * Using vouchers to reduce admission charges – Consider this – it will cost you $42 per adult and $32 per child to gain admission to a theme park. That’s $148 for a family of four or £100! You can reduce this cost by looking for vouchers, which will cut adult admission tickets by between $3 and $10. This may not sound a great deal, but it’s just saved you the cost of car parking. At 6 Flags Magic Mountain in LA, someone gave us a VIP pass which sav
ed us $20 each on adult admission! Check out the coupons at your Motel, local papers or tourist blurb. Don’t pay full price! * Eating in theme parks – Con number 2. After charging you to park your car, theme parks will overcharge you when you eat. Your $4 hamburger will be $6 in a theme park – without refills. If possible, take your own cold drinks especially water – which you can top up from the water fountains. Ignore the warnings about taking your own food. Like cinemas, theme parks are after your money and food sales generate a load of revenue for them. You are there to ride on the rides – not eat their food! * Weather – Take sensible precautions. Slap on the suntan lotion in the car park and drink plenty of liquids. Even in Florida in November, the weather can be warm and you might get burnt. Stay in the shade when you can. A day is a long time to stay out in the sun if you are not used to the climate. After sun lotion can be very soothing if you are a bit burnt – take some. Places to stay overnight Other than your car, your major concern on a fly drive will be the places where you will stay. The number of hotels/motels is huge as are the variety of facilities they offer. There are also a huge variety of prices, which can also be paid and the trick is to get a comfortable room for as little money as possible. Consider the following: * Pre-pay schemes – One way of keeping costs down and pre-booking all your accommodation is to use a pre-pay voucher system. Each voucher costs about £44 and entitles you to a room for one night. You get a Directory from which you choose the Hotel and location. You ring the voucher company in the UK and specify which hotels, and when. In return, they send you vouchers (which you have paid for) which you present at the Hotel in question. * Booking on the Internet – An alternative way to book is on the Internet though I have never tried this. * Book
ing in the States – If you want to be really flexible, book your accommodation when in the States. Hotels often have rates displayed, though if you book in that evening – you can always try to negotiate a cheaper deal. Really cheap deals can be found by getting hold of a free Hotel/Motel voucher book. These are packed with coupons giving cheap prices. You can get these books in diners, tourist information centres and some hotels/motels. * Suggested chains – In the past we have used Motel6 (budget – but clean), Best Western (ok), and Ramada (more upmarket). There are loads of motels around. Turn up, see a room and haggle over a price. Remember an empty room brings in no income – so see what you can get away with! * Facilities including fridges – If you can, try to get a room with a decent set of TV channels (including movies, kids channels and sports), a fridge to keep your perishables (and beer), and coffee maker. Money * Cheap travellers cheques – I must admit that I am not keen on travellers cheques as you don’t tend to get a good rate of exchange and you often have to pay commission. Shop around and try to get a commission free deal. I bought my cheques from the main Post Office – on a commission free deal. Get $50 notes and remember to keep the serial numbers separate in case you lose the cheques and need to get replacements. * Cash for tolls & sundries – When exchanging your pounds for dollars, get about $50 in cash (various denominations) for when you arrive in the States. If nothing else, you will need some cash in Orlando, Florida for getting through the toll road system that surrounds the airport. Don’t embarrass yourself by trying to pay for a $2 toll with a $50 travellers cheque! As to coinage, it’s worth keeping for putting in things like parking meters, which don’t always take notes. * Use of ATM machines and credit cards in the US – Once in
the US, you can easily get cash through ATM machines. Although you will pay a cash advance percentage, the exchange rate will be far better than when buying travellers cheques. Once signed on, use the checking option to get at your money. The machines are far more laid back than ours – they even welcome you by name. * Buying gas – You can pay for gas in advance at the pump by cash or credit card, or inside. If you use a card, you may be asked to enter your PIN number. I tried this and found my card wouldn’t work as the network was down. I finally gave up and used travellers cheques or cash. If you pay for $20 worth of gas – this is all you will be able to put in your car. * New coinage – Finally, the Americans have been introduced to dollar coins. They look a bit like chocolate money. So if you get one – they are legitimate. However you may have to wait sometime to find a machine that will take them! Things to do on holiday * Beaches – Obvious really. The best beaches I have come across were in Florida on the Gulf Coast. Clean, golden and peaceful. Many beaches have facilities to shower off the sand. If you want something a little more remote, California has loads of beaches north of SF. You won’t find lifeguard facilities here. * State Parks – If tranquillity is more your ticket, State Parks are worth a visit. Some have interesting countryside where you can wander, others have historical monuments containing say something interesting about America’s history. There is often an entrance charge and they often do not have anything better than chemical toilets – which are a bit of an acquired taste! * Museums – The US have a variety of these. Many are very small or poorly advertised. Watch out for them on tourist information leaflets. We went to an excellent Railway Museum in Sacramento. Entrance fee was $3 and kids up 16 were free. If the museum is run by the State or t
he country, they tend to be cheaper. * Shopping – Outside of towns, decent shops can be found in some malls, which house big stores such as Seers, Barnes and Noble etc. If you want cheap clothes (such as t-shirts), try Wal-mart, Target or Kmart. They are not upmarket, but the prices are very keen. Some locations have outlet malls where you can buy quality seconds. Remember that you will have to get these into your suitcases somehow. If you have got to here, I apologise for all the words. There is more I could write – but I will spare you the eyestrain. Thanks for reading.
What is it with Spam and why does it seem to attract it to me? You must know what its like – you start downloading your emails and find you’ve got 20 unwanted emails of which 10 are ‘get rich quick schemes’, 5 are offering you ‘XXX’ sites, 2 are for free US cable and the last one is for Viagra. Leaving you with 2 decent emails from our friends at Dooyoo. And yes I’ve tried to stop them coming. I’ve used the ‘unsubscribe from this list’ – funny how the reply to address doesn’t exist or the mailbox is full. When desperate I type ‘PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE’ and although it makes me feel better – the next night I have another set of spammy emails. The truth is you can’t stop it coming. You have to get clever and use some sort of filtering device to sort out the wheat from the chaff. I’ve tried setting up filters on Outlook and Outlook Express – but this requires time and patience. The spammers are clever and you will always find a smartarse somewhere who can get through your filter. My solution was to find some software where the filters have already been set-up and which can be run prior to downloading emails. A sort of firewall – but for the home user. With this in mind, I went to the www.zdnet.com web site and searched through their lists of spam filters until I cam across ‘Spam Buster’ – which is a roundabout way of getting to the subject of this opinion. To be perfectly honest, its one of many similar products and there are probably others around which do the same jobs more efficiently. But this is what I use and I would like to take a little time to describe its operations. Requirements =========== Spam Buster (or SB as it will be shortened to from now), is produced by a company called Contact Plus and can be downloaded for free from their www.contactplus.com web site. The
file is 1.4mb so it won’t take too long to download and they are currently up to v1.9 of their software. SB only processes POP3 email accounts. So if you use Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL etc – it will not work. Other than the POP3 requirement and a need for a 486+/Windows 9+ or NT/32MB+ RAM, its needs are pretty modest. Oh – forgot to mention that because its freeware, you have to put up with some pretty unobtrusive banner advertising. If this really annoys you, you can shell out $19.95 for an advert-free one – but I think you are just pouring money down the drain. Set-up ===== SB can operate in 1 of 2 ways. In ‘automatic’ mode, you can setup SB to automatically run in the background to read your emails and delete the spam. This works well if you have a permanent connection and you totally trust SB to delete the spam and let the good stuff through. As I have a dial-up connection and want to see what SB is about to delete – I use SB in ‘manual mode’. I would recommend this mode of operation. Upon downloading SB, activate it and a hammer icon will appear in the system tray at the bottom of the screen. Right click and select the main screen option to invoke the software. There may be a better way – but it works for me and time is too precious to mess about. Before you can filter emails, you have to tell SB details of your POP3 mailbox(es). In the General settings area, for each mailbox to be read, you specify: * Server name eg POP3.DOOYOO.CO.UK * Your User Id * Password for your User id You also tick the box. This is repeated for each mailbox up to a maximum of 6. In this area you can also: * Set SB to check email automatically or manually * Specify which email program you use eg Outlook or Outlook Express * Whether you want SB to open that email program when all emails have been filtered Having done this, you are ready to give SB a bash. The filtering process ===================== SB comes with its own ‘blacklist’ of spammers. These include email addresses, domain names, subject headings and key words/symbols in subjects. The latter is interesting because it looks for obvious words like ‘SEX’, XXX’ as well as ‘$$$’. Also SB will check whether the sending email and reply-to email are the same. If they are not – its likely to be spam. There are hundreds of entries on this file, which you can maintain yourself. The list expands with every new release – unsurprisingly. It says there are 18000+ entries on the list! SB has other filters. You can add details of spammers yourself. If you find some spam which was not picked up by the blacklist, you can by right clicking on the mouse – add the subject and/or email address to a spam list. If on the other hand, you want to let certain emails to get through the filter, you can make them exceptions. These are then flagged with a yellow hand. The lists of spammers and exceptions can be viewed and amended easily. How it works ============ Now we have set up SB and explained the filtering process, lets describe how it’s typically used. You first get access to your ISP (eg dial-in). Invoke SB as previously described. Next you click on the ‘Check email’ button. Select the mailbox to be read and SB will read through all headers for the mailbox. All headers are displayed and if an email fails the ‘Blacklist’ it is marked with a black tick. If it fails a rule you have defined, it gets marked with a red tick. If it’s a bit suspect, then it’s marked with a blue query. Emails that are marked as exceptions have a yellow hand symbol next to them. If you aren’t sure about an email, you can have a ‘butchers’ at the head
er or the body of the email by selecting the email and doing a right click. You can then decide to make the email a spam candidate or an exception. Finally, when you have decided what to keep and what to junk, you click the delete marked messages icon (a dustbin) and you say good riddance to all that spam. The retained emails are re-displayed on the screen. From here, you can invoke your email program to download your emails properly or close SB. It’s really as easy as that! Anything else ============= SB also keeps a text log, which it uses to produce all sorts of weird and wonderful statistics including: * How many emails you’ve read each day, how many were spam and how many were kosher (bar chart) * Period by period comparisons (for the statisticians) * A pie chart showing the percentage of good and spam emails. Mine says that 51% of my emails are spam !!! * Top 10 spam domains * Top 10 spam email address You can clear down the text file if it’s too dull – but it’s worth perusing the graphs once in a while. Conclusions =========== SB is a nice simple bit of software to filter out spam. An older version of SB I used did lock up – but since re-building my PC and installing a new version of SB – I haven’t had any problems. It may not be as slick as some shop bought software, but it does the job, is highly recommended by ZDNET and most importantly is free!!!
Things ‘are a changing’ at Whitbread – once known as a brewing to hotels combine, they have recently disposed of their breweries to the Belgian giant Interbrew; and have done the same with their non-restaurant pubs. Well what has this got to do with the Pen and Parchment? Well this pub is/was part of Whitbread’s Hogshead chain, which caters for the real ale fan. Who knows what the new owner will have in store? My advice is therefore – if you like real pubs – get down there before the atmosphere is ruined! So where is it and what is it like? The Pen and Parchment (P&P from now on) is located at Bridgefoot next to the Stratford-upon-Avon canal towards the south of the town. The Tourist Information Centre is nearby on the left, and the Bridgefoot Car Park and toilets are behind it. If you leave the pub and cross the busy road, you will encounter Bancroft Gardens where you can sit on the grass in the summer and feed the ducks/swans by the River Avon. Just in front of the pub is the starting point for the Guide Friday bus tour. Its not a difficult pub to find and if you park in the nearby Car Park you will no doubt find it by accident. The pub is quite old, dating back to the 1780’s. I only know this because there is a wall containing the names of all the landlords up to the present day. There are picnic benches outside, though I would question the sense in sitting there with the buses coming and going. Upon entering the P&P, there is a non-smoking eating area on the right, and a raised smoking eating area to the right. Although I don’t smoke, I tend to sit on the right because there is more space and it isn’t that smokey. I can’t remember if there was any music playing when I was there at lunchtime. If there was it was very unobtrusive. Unlike many pubs, which have those dark brown round tables with numbers on them, the P&P has a variety of tables a
nd seating. I found a high back chair with arms and a huge square table capable of seating 6. Why come to the P&P? For the real ale of course. When I was there, there was London Pride, Tetleys Bitter and Everards ESB on tap. The pub changes its beers regularly and details can be found behind the bar. They also sell cider from the barrel – plus you can sample before you buy. My Mum went for a dry red coloured cider whereas I sampled and then tried a strong cloudy cider. They do a range of reasonably priced food as well. Apart from having a menu, there is a blackboard with a range of special dishes. I opted for something, which was like Toad in the hole, and which came with a bowl of gravy – for dipping your sausage in! The P&P does a range of traditional gooeey pudds like treacle tart and custard, chocolate pud and the like. If you fancy a coffee, they will make you a Costa coffee. Recommended if you’ve had a few too many glasses of rough cider. The toilets are clean and there are pictures of historical Stratford on the wall. The pub feels old – not like the owners have tried to make it that way. But here is the worse part. Visit it whilst you can. The new owners may have totally different plans and may change it for the worse. The real ale might go and it could become a trendy wine bar, or somewhere for posers to drink expensive bottled beer. I’ve nothing against these places – but lets have a variety of pubs for all tastes. Please visit the P&P. On a weekday lunchtime, it’s a very pleasant place to pass the time sampling all that beer. Like most things nowadays – there is a web-site www.hogshead.co.uk where you can do a pub search. The site is a bit gory (colourwise) unlike the pubs, which are a bit more traditional. Its also recommended by the Campaign for Real Ale which is worth a mention!!
For those who regularly read my stuff, Dooyoo gives me the opportunity to share one of my long-term interests – history. I studied the Tudors and Stuarts at school when I was 13. I then carried on with ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels in Social and Economic History before coming to the conclusion that there wasn’t a decent career to be had in history and so I switched to computing. To me, history can be bought alive and to the attention of joe public in museums. Reading has 3 of them. One can be found in the Old Town Hall (please feel free to read and rate my opinion on it), another – the Museum of Rural English Life can be located in Reading University (no opinion yet!)…..and the last one is the little museum at Blake’s Lock. Before I waffle on about this little museum, I need to mention Reading Borough Council (RBC) and their attitude to this quaint institution. Like every Council in this land, they decide what they are going to spend in the next Council year and set a precept for the amount of money they want from the Council taxpayer. And every year, RBC decide that some grant-aided body is going to have their grant cut. Last year I think it was the Citizens Advice Bureau. The details get to the press, there is a public outcry and RBC come to the rescue at the 11th hour by withdrawing the threat. Good wheeze eh! This year it’s the turn of Blake’s Lock Museum. RBC say they can’t afford to run it and they are actively considering selling it off as an eating establishment – albeit with a much smaller museum. As a history lover – this is sacrilege. Charging to visit Museums is bad enough – decimating them by closing them down is something else. I decided that it was time to take me, my camera and something to write on down to the Museum and express its plight as an opinion. So forsaking my comfy armchair, I ventured out into the cold Reading air. Why is it
so cold at the present ? The location ========= The museum can be found in Kenavon Drive. Reading Borough Council (bless ‘em) have recently changed the access into Reading along Kings Road into a bus/taxi only lane. This makes getting into the town from the east even more difficult. If you can get to Homebase/Toys R Us/Reading Prison, take Kenavon Drive (Comet and McDonalds are on your left) until you get to a junction. The Museum is on the other side of the road to the right. Park near the Museum. Don’t leave your car in the Retail Park near to Ronnie McD’s. There are some vigilant parking attendants who will shop you if they think you are going to leave your car there and wander in Reading town centre. Tip – if you want to do that – park in front of Staples! Reading charge £1 per hour car parking and a brisk walk through Forbury Gardens will get you some exercise as well as saving you some dosh. The area near to the museum is a bit run down – but its safe to leave your car there. If you arrive by train, you will have a good 20 minutes walk. A taxi journey (£3-4ish) might be worth considering. The history ======== The Museum is tied up with sewage (or should it be – it has it pumping through its veins – yuk). Reading like many growing towns in the industrial revolution had a problem with waste and clean drinking water. Up to 1849, it found its way into the River Thames. Outbreaks of cholera and other Victorian diseases were common up to this point. There was an outcry about the problem and in 1873, Reading’s sewers were opened. A pumping station was built at Blake’s Lock and the town’s waste was pumped to a treatment plant at Manor Farm in Whitley (south of the town centre – near the new football stadium). Power for the 4 pumps was provided by water turbines. The pumps provided good service and were replaced in 1929 by
electric powered versions. In 1959, a brand new pumping station was opened by Thames Water on an adjoining site and the old building was bequeathed to Reading Borough Council. The museum is thus housed in the old pumping house buildings. It was opened in 1985 and won a tourist award that year followed by a special museum of the year award the next year. Before I leave the subject of sewage – I have to mention the ‘Whitley Whiff’. Up to a couple of years ago, you could smell the output from the Manor Farm treatment works when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Hence the term. Thames Water to their credit have largely resolved this problem. This leaves the Courage Brewery down the road causing more smells although the aroma of the brewing process is a little more aromatic! Sorry for dwelling on this subject. No more funny smells! The Exhibits ========= Upon entering the Museum, you come across a tiny Gift Shop and toilets to the right near the entrance. Descending the stairs (or was it a disabled ramp – I wasn’t paying too much attention – whoops), you come to three exhibition areas, which will be described in turn. The Barbers shop The Museum has re-assembled Pottingers Hairdressers, which opened in 1909 in Whitley Street (south Reading) and was family run until its closure in 1980. It’s a proper old-fashioned Barber with the familiar smell of freshly cut hair, the paraffin heater in the corner and the heat from the clippers. I remember my Dad taking to places like this in Leamington Spa. A haircut was 60p (remember these were 1980’s prices), and a dry shampoo 45p. I couldn’t work out what a dry shampoo was though a sign in the shop recommended it because it ‘prevents you from catching cold’. These places were miles away from your modern hairdresser with their exotic stylists and high prices. The ‘Carriages’ Hall
The largest hall has a transport theme though it was rather empty and needs to be filled with something. There is a manual fire engine belonging to the parish of Sonning, which was purchased from the London County Council and used up to 1920. It has a bar on each side, which are alternatively pushed up and down to, pump the water. Before the Fire Brigade, as we know it today existed, many companies had their own Fire service. Huntley and Palmers, the biscuit people (a major employer in Reading in the 19th and 20th centuries) had their own fire brigade. In fact, the museum explains that getting your fire put out was like paying a subscription to say the AA to get your car fixed. The fire insurance companies had their own fire engines, and the building owner had a plaque attached to their building, which denoted they had paid their subscription. They didn’t say what happened if the plaque was melted by the time the fire brigade arrived! The other vehicle in the hall is a restored Gypsy Caravan dating from between 1901 and 1914. It is green with gold leaf and possesses a number of elaborate carvings. The ‘land and water’ Hall This is the most interesting part of the museum, and is divided into those activities, which are land based and those, which took place on or near the water. The hall shows aspects of Reading life at the end of the 19th century. There are many recreations of shop windows filled with items readily available in those days. These include: Parnells the printers – including printing presses Photographers Shoe makers (they had tiny feet!) Bazaar – where you could buy games, toys, egg cups, cards etc Confectioners (note they didn’t call themselves a sweet shop!) Reading in the 19th century produced an internationally known sauce called Cock’s. Its no longer produced any more. It ran into competition from Lea and Perrin in 183
7 when they introduced “Worcester Sauce”. And as we know – Worcester Sauce is still going strong. In the water section of the hall is a recreation of a tool shop from a boat builders. There are also decorated objects from canal barges including tea boxes, lamps etc. Henley Regatta is well known today, but in the 19th century. Reading had its own Regatta. In fact it had 2. The main one started in the early 1840’s. The second one was a “Working Man’s Regatta” for those barred from taking part in the main one. Reading still has many boating clubs dotted along the Thames. In the Summer, the Thames and the Kennett and Avon canal are busy with tourist craft. Outside Wandering outside, you can see Blake’s Lock. Sorry – I was not able to find out who Blake was. There is a long brick building containing remnants of the original pumping turbines. The walls are 2-tone, white at the top and green at the bottom. The history and purpose of the building are well explained using interpretation boards. There is another building called the “Screen Room” where school workshops are held. In the past it was used to let smells escape via a green steeple on the tope of the building. Other details ========== The museum is small and interesting but needs revamping. Its location well away from the town centre does not advertise it. Reading Borough Council has not invested in the museum unlike its bigger brother in the Town Hall. Blake’s Lock Museum is open at weekends and Bank Holidays between 2 and 5pm. It’s also open between Tuesday and Friday during school holidays between 10am and 5pm. It’s not open at any other time. The museum is free. So if you are ever around Reading during the weekend, please visit the forgotten museum. Don’t hang about – it may be a restaurant next time!
Every 6 months or so I make a ‘pilgrimage’ to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit my Dentist and to see my Mum who still lives in my hometown. Although I live near Reading, I still visit my family Dentist – perhaps I am happy with him! Anyway, after a period lying in the Dentist’s chair being prodded and polished (not to mention the bill); Mum and I set off to hit the town. Well – go for a cup of coffee – it was about 11am and the wind was whistling up from the River Avon. Parking the car in the Bridgefoot Car Park (opposite the Hilton Hotel), and shoving £1.20 in the machine for 3 hours parking – we crossed the Bridgefoot Road and noticed a new complex where once had been a timber mill. This my friends is a roundabout introduction to Cox’s Yard and my impressions of it. The Complex ========== Cox’s Yard is a collection of various entertainment venues. I know this sounds vague, but as I write this I cannot think of anything better. The centre as I mentioned previously is based on Cox’s Yard, which was where they cut timber bought in on the nearby canal and river. It comprises a number of restored historical buildings complemented by some new ones. It is owned by Charles Wells, the Brewer from Bedford famous for their Bombardier ale. It was built around 1998, though I haven’t seen it in on my previous visits to Stratford. Upon entering the site from the Bridgefoot end, you will discover: * The Jester (a Pub) * A Restaurant * Micro Brewery * Gift Shop * Tea rooms and gallery * Conference Rooms * The Stratford Tales Museum Cox’s Yard is right next to the River Avon and an island (actually a nature reserve) where there are loads of ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl. For an area where people drink, you would have thought that a rail would have been provided to stop you walking off the end into the water
after a few too many beers. There isn’t and we will come back to that one later. The centre is next to Bancroft Gardens, the river and canal and the main theatre at the bottom end of the town. If you head for the Tourist Information Centre, which is in the vicinity, they will provide you with a map and/or point you in the right direction. Now I’m probably going to disappoint you by not describing all the facilities. This is because of 2 main reasons. Firstly when I visited Cox’s Yard it was a cold February day and it was 11am when the pub and restaurant weren’t open. But, we did wander around most of it. So lets start with that coffee: The Tea Shop =========== As someone who has worked in the Stratford Tourist Industry, the town only comes to life from about Easter onwards. This is when the new season starts at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the coach loads of tourists decide that it is warm enough to venue outside. If you are operating a tourist venue outside of the season – it can be dead! It was quiet in the Tea Shop. Other than another family who like us had escaped out of the cold, it was empty. The single person on duty was deeply engrossed in her book. We both went for coffee though we decided not to bother with the mocha when we discovered that our assistant had not yet learnt to make one! I went for a mint coffee for about £1.60 per cup and upon it arriving on the table – struggled to detect a difference in taste between a minty coffee and my Mum’s non-minty coffee. I didn’t have the heart to complain – she would have probably owned up to not knowing how to make a minty coffee. The shop sold the sort of things a teashop does – though we weren’t overly impressed. What did impress us was a framed copy of a planning decision from Stratford District Council dated 1998. They had refused planning permission for a rail next to the river
because it would have been not in keeping with the look of the nearby waterside. So if you walk of the edge into the River because of a lack of lighting or too much drink – you have Stratford District Council to thank! Microbrewery =========== Situated next to the pub is the Microbrewery where they make Jester Ale. There are regular talks on brewing each Wednesday afternoon (it says in the leaflet). It was closed when we were there – so I can’t really comment on it. Sorry! Jester Pub ======== It was closed when we visited, but a quick ‘butchers’ through the window gave the impression of a large building with many levels and a large collection of ‘wine bar’ type seating. Gift Shop ======= We passed through one of this en-route to the Museum. The merchandise was up market – something that is quite the norm in Stratford. What ruined it was the loud Radio 1 musak in the shop. Presumably it was there for the benefit of the solitary shop assistant who like her Coffee Shop counterpart – had a lot of time to kill. There were toilets (including disabled) in the shop – but these were all out of order when we were there. The Stratford Tales Museum ====================== We were about to leave Cox’s Yard when we made an on the spur of the moment decision to visit the museum. Its entrance is via the Gift Shop. Admission is £3.95 per adult, £2.50 for children and £3.25 for concessions. The Museum is actually located in the old Timber building on three levels, all accessible by stairs and lift. On the first level is a Camera Obscura. From here you can see views of Stratford including the Avon, the Theatre and the Welcome Hotel. The camera is located on the top of a brick tower in the yard and it roams around automatically, the image is displayed on a table-top like screen. Also on the same level are d
etails of how Stratford developed in the middle ages. It was granted a charter to hold markets and this bought a great deal of wealth to the town. Being close to a river and the canal system also gave it transportation advantages. Moving up the stairs to the second level, we found information about the building of the canal system. In an adjoining room was an exhibition about the “The Dillen”. A dillen was the runt of a series of children and this expression was applied to George Henry Hewins – an ordinary bloke who lived in Stratford in the late 19th Century, early 20th Century. Upon entering the room, you switch off the light, start the projector and watch a summary of his life. The Royal Shakespeare Company put on some plays about the Dillen about 10-15 years ago. It makes a change from hearing about the “great and the good” all the time. And onto the top floor. This resembles and attic and contains loads of knick-knacks from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are also interpretation boards up there explaining about some of the lesser known things about Stratford’s history. These include: * The great fire of Stratford in the Seventeenth century * The Civil War – Stratford was right in the middle of the conflict * Life on the canal * Marie Corelli – the novelist, conservationist and philanthropist, who lived in the town and cruised down the Avon on a gondola. Mindful of her image, she had her photographs ‘touched up’ to make her look more beautiful. Shakespeare is mentioned very little. What I found was very interesting was some information on the ‘Mop’ Fairs. Although they are still held in Stratford this day in October as a funfair, their original purpose was as an agricultural hiring fair. Most agricultural labour was casual in previous centuries, and with the complet
ion of harvesting, many workers needed work for the winter. The Mop was held to bring employers and employees together. Those seeking work wore a ribbon denoting their trade so they could be easily identified. Upon being hired, they were paid a fee, which was then spent in the local pubs! With many hands looking for work, traders came to the town to sell their wares and hence the Mop was born. If you didn’t like your new employer, you had a second chance. Two weeks later is held the ‘Runaway Mop’ where you could switch employers. It is still held today. Both fairs close most of the centre of Stratford and my Mum mentioned that the District is trying to restrict both fairs. More Information ============= To find out more about Cox’s Yard: Ring them on – (01789) 404633 Email them at – Info@coxsyard.co.uk Visit their web-site at – www.coxsyard.co.uk Its open from 9am to 11pm throughout the year. Conclusions ========= February isn’t a good time to visit centres like this. It’s out of season and a bit chilly. We didn’t visit many of the facilities either. The Museum is okay for a wander but is expensive at £3.95 compared with say the Museum of London and the Science Museum. It has some interesting exhibits – but is a bit so so. The rest of the complex is okay – but is nothing special. Charles Wells have tried hard to do a bit of re-generation, but there are many schemes about which are far bigger and more interesting than this one. Someone ought to stop members of public from falling into the river by providing a handrail. It would seem that preserving a certain ambience is more important than preserving life. Councils can make daft decisions! If you do go, do visit the Coffee Shop and give the server more experience of making mocha’s! So to finish it off – it̵
7;s ‘Much ado about nothing’.
Year 2000 was a strange year for holidays in the Long household. In May we spent a brilliant week at Centerparcs at their Sherwood Forest venue and for one reason or another we took our eye off the calendar and before we knew it – it was summer and we hadn’t book anything for our main holiday. We fancied 2 weeks in Cornwall, but by this time everywhere was just about booked up and we were running out of options. In the event, we were able to rent a caravan at Woolacombe Bay Park near Ilfracombe in Devon for 1 week. Trouble is - it was an expensive caravan and I was highly reluctant to shell out large amounts of dosh for a second week. With the intention of finding a venue for week 2 with attractions for our 4-year son, my Wife started searching on the Internet for kid’s holidays in Cornwall. And up popped Trencreek Farm Holiday Park. Plus they had accommodation for our free week in September. So here’s the stuff……. Location -------- The park is situated 4 miles southwest of St Austell. You take the A390 out of St Austell and then do a left onto the B3287 in the direction of Tregony and St Mawes. You then follow this road for about 1 mile and Trencreek Farm Park is on your left. It is literally in the countryside surrounded by a multitude of fields (well 56 acres to be precise!). Facilities ---------- Trencreek is a multi-purpose establishment. You can bring your own caravan or tent; or you can hire one of 32 caravans or one of 11 chalets. Be warned, if you want upmarket luxurious facilities – you will be mightily disappointed. The site has a small general store where you can purchase bread, milk and daily newspapers. It tends to be open for about 2 hours per day – so get there in time. There is also a chip shop on site open most days until about the end of August. In terms of outdoor facilities, there are 2 heated outdoor pools an
d a sandpit for the little ones. For the more energetic is a playground with trampolines, tunnels, swings and the usual things kids enjoy. Accommodation ------------- Last year we stayed in one of Trencreek’s chalets in the centre of the park. To be frank it was a bit basic and some of the décor left something to be desired. However, once you get over the shock of 1970’s brown curtains and lino – you get on with it. Living on a farm you have to put up with flies and we soon purchased a can of fly spray to kill off the blighters. Having said this, it cost us the princely sum of £125 for the week – all in. We have already decided to return to Trencreek this year and have gone for the luxury caravan option. It’s a caravan, which sleeps 4, has the mod cons and in August will set us back £370. Hopefully there are no 1970’s curtains or lino! Animals ------- One of the main reasons to stay at the Trencreek Holiday Park are the animals. They have quite a number of them, they are tame and they roam the place. Apart the obligatory chickens, you can meet and stroke Poppy, Pansy and Rasher (pot bellied pigs). Then there are the goats, rabbits, donkeys and lambs. Our favourite was a turkey called Samson who liked to be stroked! He would sit outside your door along with a collection of other animals (e.g. the pot bellied pigs) and wait to be fed. You quickly learnt to keep your chalet door closed or the goats would wander in! Things to do ------------ If you like good food and beer, I would heartily recommend the Hewas Inn in the local village of Sticker. I remember having an excellent ostrich steak washed down with a couple of pints of St Austell bitter – heaven. The pub is happy to take young children and they have their own menu. For food shopping St Austell has an ASDA on the west side of town and a Tesco to the east. Then there is Bens Playw
orld. For the princely price of £3.50 per child, you can let them charge around all day in ball pits, slides and the like. It’s a bit dull for adults, so take a book or three to pass the time. Alternatively, draft a few opinions! Then of course there is the Eden Project north of St Austell, which will be opening in March. For shopping, take a trip down the A390/A39 to Truro. I could go on about the tourist attractions of Cornwall – but I won’t. More Information ---------------- If you want more information, a good place to start is the Trencreek Farm web-site www.trencreek.co.uk. There should be something there for most tastes and pockets. Bookings can be done over the net by sending an email to email@example.com or by picking up the phone and ringing (01726) 882540. For our caravan, we paid a deposit of £50 with the balance due 4 weeks before the start of the holiday. Conclusion ---------- Although the facilities are not as luxurious as more upmarket parks, we found there was plenty to do whilst we were there. Our son had a great time getting to know the animals and messing around in the sandpit or on the play equipment. The air is clean and there are few cars to worry about. Check it out!